OK…raise your hand if you thought that the last series to be decided in the opening round of this spring Great Hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup would be the one between the President’s Cup-winning Washington Capitals and the Montreal Canadiens, who finished with fewer 33 points than did the Caps.
put your hand down, Smoothie!
Uh-huh…not too many, I see.
But that is exactly where we are now with only an improbable Caps-Habs game-seven standing between the completion of round one and round two.
Tuesday night the final four combatants of the Western Conference were finalized as the Phoenix Coyotes…after putting up one helluva fight in the series…eventually fell to the Big Red Borg. Detroit spanked the Yotes 6-1 to snap the 3-3 series tie, their third win in four games played in the desert.
The Wings will now take on the top-seeded San Jose Sharks who disposed of Colorado in six games.
The Sharks rode the back of great goaltending, as Evgeni Nabokov’s 1.76 GAA in the first round was second only to that of the Flyers’ Brian Boucher. Nabokov has a .926 SV% so far in post-season play as well. San Jose’s leading scorer from round one was Joe Pavelski with 5 goals and 3 assists. He was a +6 versus Colorado. Ryane Clowe’s 8 overall points came by way of a goal, 7 assists and was also a +6. Dan Boyle had 5 overall points and was a +5.
Wings and Sharks - Who wins?
Total Voters: 80
Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg’s 6 goals and 5 assists were tops for the Wings. He had three assists in last night’s win. Pavel Datsyuk’s pair of goals helped him finish with 5 goals and 8 overall points in the series. Valtteri Filppula and Johan Franzen had 7 points against the Coyotes.
Jimmy Howard’s first career NHL playoff series proved to be successful. He went the distance in goal for Detroit and has a 2.59 GAA and .919 SV% with a shutout to show for it.
The other matchup in the Western Conference we already knew of…Vancouver and Chicago, a rematch of last year’s round-two rumble that was won by the Blackhawks in six. The Canucks used offensive might to do away with the Kings, scoring 4.17 goals per game against L.A. Mikael Samuelsson led the charge with 7 goals, 4 assists and a +8 rating. Daniel Sedin had 4 goals and 10 overall points to go with a +6. Brother Henrik had 7 assists and chipped in with a goal of his own and finished the series a +7.
Blackhawks and Canucks - Who wins?
Total Voters: 72
In goal for Chicago, Antti Niemi had two shutouts against the Predators and he had a 2.15 GAA and .921 SV%. Jonathan Toews had 2 goals and 6 assists to go with a +2 to lead the Hawks in scoring, Patrick Kane, (4g, 3a E) and Patrick Sharp, (3g, 4a +2) followed closely behind. Marian Hossa only scored once…albeit a pretty timely one…but helped out with 6 helpers.
With the Detroit victory, the Western Conference saw all three of the division winners advance and the 5th seeded Wings tag along for good measure. Quite the opposite is the case back east, however, as two of the three teams already with their round-two ticket punched upset higher seeds…#7 Philly over #2 New Jersey and #6 Boston over #3 Buffalo. If Montreal has its way, that will become 3 of 4 teams in the Eastern Conferencing advancing to the next round by way of upsets.
Even with the one last game to go, this opening round of the playoffs has treated fans to some great games and matchups. Two game-sevens and five series that have needed six games to decide things. Only one team failed to win at least two games…the Devils who were only able to get one against the Flyers.
Now, as far as picks are concerned…well…let’s just say it’s a good thing I don’t gamble on sports. If so, I would probably have already lost my thumbs to Vinny “The Crusher” long ago. I thought given the gap between upper tier teams in the east and the lower three, there wasn’t going to be any upsets. I was wrrrrrr….I was wrrrrrr…I was wrrrrrrr…
ahem…I was less correct than normal.
Hence, my 4-3 showing in the seven series already decided. So I’m hoping for the Caps to pull this off so I can salvage a semi-respectable 5-3 showing.
But in the Wild West during round two, I’m gonna go with the Blackhawks to take Vancouver in six games…and given the road prowess of the Big Red Borg, I’m going with Detroit to win another game-seven on the road, dropping the Sharks in the playoff drink.
Only…I wouldn’t go running off to Vinny “The Crusher” with that.